Search

Open Assembly Blog

Open Assembly is cloud-based platform for collaborative knowledge creation with open educational resources (OER)

Tag

college

The Adjunct Problems That Too Few Talk About. Possible Solutions at Our Fingertips?

During National Adjunct Action Week, Feb. 23-27, union-represented adjuncts joined with actions that ranged from creative picketing to teach-ins to in-class explanations of adjunct issues. These were designed to call attention to and illustrate the stigma of being an adjunct and the commitment to changing adjuncts’ status from second-class workers to well-respected, well-trained, well-paid workers with benefits and supportive working conditions.

305298ea380daf06c6e7540180cf476e

On a much quieter note, and with the expectation that over time adjunct working conditions can and will be improved through various union and institutional initiatives, is there something that we (the ed-tech-for-adjunct-faculty fan club) can do to reduce the thorny prick of chronic daily irritants affecting part-time adjuncts–and their part-time students?

Picture a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, perhaps at sunrise or dusk. Two drivers sitin two parked cars on opposite sides of the lot. The drivers happen to be part-time instructors at the same community college, where they teach different sections of the same course. It would be great if they knew they were both dealing with the same classroom challenge—but they don’t: They’re so pressed for time, they have to steal an hour in the parking lot to work undisturbed…even though talking to each other to resolve that common problem would help them get a lot more work done a lot more efficiently.

images

To me, this parking lot illustrates the challenges facing part-time students and part-time educators at community colleges: Commuters who travel back and forth between work, home, and school—in the case of adjuncts, between multiple campuses—and who often work in isolation from their peers.

National Adjunct Walkout Day, on Feb. 25, became Adjunct Action Week (Feb. 23-27 ). We heard activists demanding equal pay for equal work, decent benefits, job security, and supportive working conditions, including academic freedom, for contingent instructors. In the meantime, entrepreneurs and researchers have been quietly chipping away at smaller adjunct issues. Theirs isn’t the galvanizing fight over unionizing adjuncts, but rather, the workday struggles of adjuncts. With roughly 70% of community college instructors falling into the adjunct camp (and 70% of community college students attending school part-time), there are means at our disposable to start alleviating these everyday stresses now.

Where does the trouble start? On-demand access to teaching resources is one place.

Let’s look at technology. To do their jobs, contingent faculty rely primarily on learning management systems (LMS). But this technology often fails to meet instructor (and student) needs. For one thing, resources become confined within the LMS. Think of an adjunct who’s teaching a Political Science 101 course at multiple colleges. Our part-time adjunct (Prof. PT) has digital assets ready to go: syllabus, teaching resources, reference materials.

walledgarden2

The problem is, each college has its own LMS, which means Prof. PT can’t easily transfer those materials between college  ”walled gardens”…so our Prof. PT has to do the same prep work all over again, creating a new collection of materials and “courseware” for each college at which s/he teaches. Adjunct professors are freelance education professionals and need to protect their intellectual property. If they don’t, an institution can use or disseminate Prof. PT’s courseware without his/her consent—simply because it’s contained within the institution’s LMS.

Adjuncts also lack the resources that facilitate faculty-student interaction. Chances are that our part-time adjunct doesn’t have an on-campus office, which makes it pretty tough to schedule office hours with students. Yet the most important factor in student success, according to a 2013 report, is interaction with faculty. Limiting these opportunities hurts student performance.

In addition, adjuncts have limited access to two kinds of human resources: professional development support and peer communities. These are traditionally campus-based, but adjuncts are not based on campus—they’re on the go and largely on their own when it comes to professional development. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce considers this reality “another indicator that institutions are not investing in maintaining and improving the quality of instruction,” which—you guessed it—hits the neediest college students the hardest.

hess2college

Researchers and startups such as Open Assembly are collaborating to figure out how technology can provide the greatest benefit and user experience for faculty and students. By sheer numbers the majority of these users are adjuncts and the non-traditional “new student majority.” These companies are exploring tech solutions that use existing LMS technology more effectively by extending its capabilities.

Campus technology that first and foremost serves its core users, the students and instructors, helps everyone work more efficiently. For adjuncts teaching on multiple campuses or multiple courses within the same subject, user-focused tech reduces duplication of tasks—no more reinventing the curriculum wheel all over again. Serving teachers first also means recognizing their intellectual property and giving them control of the IP that they have created on their own time and their own dime. This can give adjunct faculty more agency and perhaps eventually, more academic freedom.

Community colleges also need to do a better job of fostering greater interaction between learners and educators, and between the instructors themselves. Since colleges don’t provide enough private campus spaces for student-instructor conversations, how about creating private virtual spaces? Under the current professional, and even technological, structure of community colleges, adjuncts also have limited opportunities to connect and interact with colleagues. Since contingent faculty are not rooted on any one campus, they need an on-demand digital space in which they can share best practices with peers and colleagues, and social media isn’t going to cut it. They need adjunct-managed, adjunct-centered peer communities.

If an institution provides the flexible technology that can handle these suggested solutions, along with support from campus administrators, colleges can achieve a high ROE: return on education. What does high ROE look like? For starters, increased student engagement and success; improved efficiency of instructors and instruction; lower turnover rates among contingent faculty. All of which drive down costs for institutions.

Group of People Using Digital Devices with Speech BubbleMaria Maisto, English instructor at Cuyahoga Community College, member of the MLA Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities,  and president of the New Faculty Majority, which advocates on behalf of contingent faculty, has said that “authentic learning cannot take place in isolation.” Teachers and students who participate in that learning must belong to a community.

When they don’t belong to a community, they end up like our lonely drivers at the beginning of our story, on opposite sides of that empty, sprawling parking lot: struggling to work in the in-between hours they have, with too little time, and no one to reach out to in a pinch.

Textbook Bang for the Buck: Print, Digital, or Open?

With the fall semester upon us, students are already asking themselves which textbook option will best serve their learning needs and their wallets: is it print, digital, or open?

Because when it comes to shopping for course materials, students hold conflicting views about whether digital or print will give them more bang for their buck. That’s according to a fall 2013 study by the National Association of College Stores (NACS), which surveyed 20,000 students on 20 college campuses about their textbook-buying habits.

On the 20 Million Minds blog, Phil Hill sums up the most surprising findings from the NACS report: A majority of students reported that, in the long run, their most affordable option was “to buy the print textbook and then resell it at the end of the term.” Yet about 20 percent of students surveyed had rented or purchased a digital textbook because they thought digital was less expensive than print.

Edtech watcher Dean Florez has been calling out textbook publishers for their print offerings that can cost students more than $1,000 each semester. The industry’s digital options also have left Florez pretty unimpressed; Amazon.com’s Textbook Store, he writes, is charging for print versions of free, open-access texts and not providing much of a discount on the Kindle versions of popular texts, even the used copies.

As we’ve noted elsewhere on our blog, the affordability (or not) of course materials plays a huge role in whether a student will actually purchase the recommended or required textbooks, digital or print. Phil Hill notes the following patterns in the NACS survey (emphasis ours):

  • Price is the top factor in decision whether to acquire course materials
  • Price is the top factor in decision where to acquire course materials
  • Price is the top factor in decision on which format to choose for course materials
  • Students are becoming savvy shoppers, checking multiple purchasing channels for materials

Thanks to legislation that passed in 2012, college students in California now have access to very affordable textbooks via the California Open Online Library for Education (COOL4Ed). The state agreed to fund 50 open-source digital textbooks, targeted to lower-division courses in subjects including math, business, and art history. Students can download these books for free or pay $20 for hard copies.

Moreover, all of these new open textbooks are required to carry a Creative Commons license—which allows faculty at universities in other states to use these textbooks with their own students. The COOL4Ed collection also features free and open-access journals and open course materials (case studies, quizzes, and more).

The California Open Educational Resources Council, comprised of representatives from the state’s three college systems (community colleges, the Cal State University, and the UC), has already established the next round of peer-review panels for open textbooks, with more to come this fall.

Julie’s Journey: Make It Open

As in my last post concerning collaboration, I have been doing some research about Open Research. More about that in a moment.

What am I researching? My goal is to extend the thesis I will be turning in for a grade this semester into an on-going research project that collects data about air quality on my school campus. The whole point of this project is to make more people aware of greenhouse emissions, something we cannot directly see, so it is a given that my results will be open access. The end goal is to create a website with the data, similar to what UC-Berkeley has done with BeACON.

So, I have found out a few new things. What I will be doing with my project is called “open access data.” Meaning all of the data, and results models and graphs, will be available to anyone. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is a great example of efforts to create ways that data and research can be more available.

Then what makes “open research” different than what I described above? The answer: collaboration. A project can be considered open research if the “end goal,” or the final output, is likely to change, since multiple research entities are adding input and thoughts to the overall research. Besides the availability of data and results, as in open access, the experimental methodologies and techniques are also available for your studying pleasure and are open to improvement.

There are many websites that are trying to support this type of collaboration, and while Open Assembly is not specifically designed for research, it IS optimized for collaboration. As such, its tools can be adapted for any collaborative teaching or learning context. For example, with a research topic or project taking the place of an official college course and syllabus, the “Comments” feature allows other users to add notes, pertinent resources, and materials.

My current project has a certain end goal, but if you’re interested in providing input or getting a closer look, be sure to email me at julie@openassembly.com to gain access to the course and experience how I am using Open Assembly for Open Research.

Julie’s Journey: Collaboration, or Why My Project is Getting Better Each Day

While my thesis and research this semester are technically independent, I’m starting to learn that not much can be done without collaboration. My work has developed and changed so much from when I first started, and a lot of that is due to discussions with peers and mentors. Going into the thesis, I only had an idea of what I might possibly want to accomplish. I went from broad ideas of different environmental issues to write my thesis on, to a project in which I am able to complete relevant and interesting research to include in my thesis as well as provide data on air quality around campus. It’s through conversations and trial-and-error of different ideas that I came to realize what would be possible, and what was too much of a stretch. Beyond that, the support I have received from my mentors is how I have gotten so far. This is my first time working with Arduinos, the micro-controllers I’ll be using to collect data on air quality, and with environmental monitoring in general. It’s also my first project that is this complex and large.

Embracing collaboration is just the culmination of how my education has been built. From English class in high school to my current physics courses, discussion and collaboration have played, and do play, important roles in how my peers and I have been taught and developed our knowledge. The tools available to support collaboration have come a long way from our 40-minute, in-class discussions about Shakespeare in high school. Now, courses use Blogger, Blackboard, Google Groups, and other resources to facilitate collaboration. Each has their own appeal, but these platforms are also lacking as far as trying to be the virtual classroom that teachers are attempting to create. Currently, my thesis class uses Google Groups as an email notification system and Blackboard for discussion. I find these limited compared to what I can do using Open Assembly.

Throughout my project development, I have had people sending relevant documents and information, others who just want a more detailed idea of what I am doing, and peers who have input and thoughts on my work. I have found that Open Assembly caters to all of these needs, more so than anything my professors have used to date. By inviting my mentors in my “course” with the role of  “Instructors”, they are able to upload pertinent material directly to the platform. Those collaborators invited as “Students” can comment on the work I have done, as well as upload other resources they think might be relevant and helpful. This set-up allows for fluid collaboration and discussion that would not be possible otherwise.

I’ll be sharing more about the collaborative power of Open Assembly further down the line. Stay tuned!

As promised in the last episode, I’ve taken some time to tackle the question of copyright. It can certainly be confusing, but I’m finding it worthwhile to learn more about how to share content responsibly.

When uploading content to Open Assembly, there are three main license types to choose from, with a few options in the underlying tiers. I have outlined them in hopes of making the laws and pertinent court-case decisions a bit more clear and concise.

Public Domain (“No Rights Reserved”)

CC0

This is when the creator of the material waives all copyrights. It means that anyone can build upon, enhance, and reuse the work without any restrictions.

A Public Domain (abbreviated as PD or CC0) license should only be applied to your own work unless you have the right to apply CC0 to someone else’s work, as well.

Creative Commons (“Some Rights Reserved”)

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. The CC license allows creators to retain copyright while permitting others to copy, reuse, distribute, and make specific kinds of use of the work. There’s an alphabet soup’s worth of Creative Commons licenses, each defining how much liberty the creator will let others take with their work. All of them however require attribution to the author(s).

CC BY

Others can distribute, remix, tweak, and build on the work—even commercially—as long as the user gives credit to the creator. The gold standard of “open” works.

CC BY-SA

Similar to CC BY but all derivative works and new creations must apply the same license. This means that anyone who changes or reuses the work, must keep the material as CC BY-SA instead of something more open or more restrictive.

CC BY-ND

Allows for commercial and non-commercial redistribution but must remain unchanged and intact as well as credited to the original creator. This does not allow for any derivative works.

CC BY-NC

Others can remix, tweak, and build upon the work, but the original must be credited and new, derivative works must be non-commercial.

CC BY-NC-SA

Similar to CC-BY-NC but all new creations must be under the same licence as the original. This means all others that change or reuse the work, must keep the material CC BY-NC-SA instead of something more open or restrictive.

CC BY-NC-ND

Others can download and distribute the material, but it cannot be changed or used commercially, and the user has to credit the creator.

If you love charts, here’s an easy-to-read illustration of what we’ve covered so far:

distribute and share with others

must credit the creator

remix, tweak, and build upon to the heart’s content

only for non-commercial use

must have the same license as the original creation

CC BY

x

x

x

CC BY-SA

x

x

x

x

CC BY-ND

x

x

CC BY-NC

x

x

x

x

CC BY-NC-SA

x

x

x

x

x

CC BY-NC-ND

x

x

x

CC0

x

 

x

And, here’s a helpful interactive tool for determining which CC license might best apply to your material.

If you’re looking for content that you can freely and legally use, there is a giant pool of CC-licensed creativity available to you. There are hundreds of millions of works — from songs and videos to scientific and academic material — available to the public for free and legal use under the terms of CC copyright licenses, with more being contributed every day.

Traditional Copyright (“All Rights Reserved”)

This is the default for all works unless noted otherwise. There are many nuances to copyright and intellectual property, but I will try to keep this as basic as possible. In short, if all rights are reserved under a traditional copyright, the creator of the work is the only one who can reproduce the work, make changes (remix, tweak, or build upon) to the work, and use the work commercially. This copyright does expire, typically 70 years after the creator’s death, although this is another area with exceptions and limitations.

Fair Use

Under “all rights reserved” falls the often-misunderstood “fair use” designation. Fair use is is a set of guidelines (rather than legal directives) permitting limited use under certain conditions, based on four factors: purpose, nature, amount, and effect. It can be quite a murky area but is especially important in education. It really can only be said that a certain utilization of the work “favors” fair use. Below are some explanations that are pertinent to education. Check out this checklist here for more detail and examples.

When the purpose of the work is  criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, it is usually favorable for fair use. There is also favor for “transformative” uses such as being quoted in a paper or altered art for a mixed media project

The nature of the work is not favorable if it is not yet published or if it is and easily available material in the educational market.

The amount used can be difficult to determine, but it is not fair use if it is capturing the “heart” of the work, or too large of a portion of the work. This is qualitative as well as quantitative and really is a judgment call.

The effect concerns how the use will affect the market of the copyright. If it will cause market changes or loss in value for the original work, it is not favorable under Fair Use.

_______________________________________________________

Hopefully this information will help you as much as it’s helped me understand which license to use when uploading material. At the moment, Open Assembly has the default copyright set to CC BY as this is the “gold standard” of open licenses, especially in education, where it is enabling access to free textbooks and other resources for over a million students in the US alone.

If CC BY does not apply to your uploaded content, be sure to change it. Remember that this is a VERY BASIC guide and if you have ANY doubts about copyright licenses, err on the safe side and assume that all rights are reserved and carefully follow Fair Use–or look deeper into it.

Also, not to be forgotten, especially given the topic of the post, all my information was gathered from Columbia University’s Copyright Advisory Board, the Creative Commons website, and the U.S. government’s copyright site.

If you want to help the cause of Creative Commons for students and teachers in your circles, pass this info on. Let your teachers know about CC-based open textbook publishing, a growing and important trend improving access to education. You might even benefit one day with a much smaller textbook bill!

Julie’s Journey: Pilot Season Starts

This is the first in a semester-long series taking an up-close look at the functionalities and potential of the latest release of Open Assembly’s platform for networked learning in open education environments. Open Assembly is a powerful framework for easily developing or remixing courseware, curating content, and managing research projects. Work on your own—or better yet, in teaching and learning networks you create by inviting others into your process.

I’m Julie. I’ve been working at Open Assembly for several months, and after seeing the development of the revamped platform, I was beyond excited when I got the go-ahead to use v2.0.

Some background: I’m a junior at Fordham University studying engineering physics and environmental policy, with interests in technology, coding, and economics. The time has come for me to write a thesis for my environmental policy major; my thesis, at the moment at least, will concern dangerous gases in the atmosphere.

I will be using the Open Assembly platform as a project management tool, compiling materials, resources, and drafts for my thesis. I will be blogging about my progress, experience, and varying relevant topics every week. I will also be curating the topic “Julie’s Journey: Developing a Thesis on Open Assembly” on Scoop.it. You’ll be able to find my posts, as well at other relevant material on my thesis topic, educational technology, and other pertinent information.

If you’d like to follow closer and have even more of an inside look, contact me at julie@openassembly.com, and I can give you access to my course. Not only will this let you experience Open Assembly as I develop my thesis during this pilot season, but you will also be able to comment on anything I’ve posted—and even post content and links you think might be relevant to my research!

Episode 1

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

LESSIG Blog, v2

Open Assembly is cloud-based platform for collaborative knowledge creation with open educational resources (OER)

Open Education Working Group

Open Assembly is cloud-based platform for collaborative knowledge creation with open educational resources (OER)

Hybrid Pedagogy

a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology

e-Literate

What We Are Learning About Online Learning...Online

Medien-Didaktik 2.0

Digital Media & Diversity

AdjunctChat

A Twitter chat for adjunct, contingent, part-time, visiting, and non-tenure track instructors, along with their allies, in higher education.

oerresearchhub.wordpress.com/

Researching open education

Dave’s Educational Blog

Open Assembly is cloud-based platform for collaborative knowledge creation with open educational resources (OER)

iterating toward openness

pragmatism over zeal - aut inveniam viam aut faciam

Hack Education

Open Assembly is cloud-based platform for collaborative knowledge creation with open educational resources (OER)

%d bloggers like this: